Cats dominate the post, rout Gamecocks

jtipton@herald-leader.comFebruary 26, 2010 

Kentucky's inside power more than compensated for Devan Downey's scoring.

In other words, what was expected to happen at South Carolina last month came to pass in Rupp Arena on Thursday night.

UK beat South Carolina 82-61 as DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson dominated around the basket.

South Carolina, which came into the game ranked No. 299 in the country in rebound margin, outrebounded UK 44-40 in Columbia. This time the Cats ruled the rim area, enjoying a 47-31 rebounding advantage. That translated into a 23-15 edge in second-chance scores.

"We were trying to post it every single time," UK Coach John Calipari said.

Of Cousins and Patterson, Calipari said, "Every time they caught it near the basket, they scored."

Downey, the Southeastern Conference's leading scorer, led South Carolina with 26 points. But he had to work for it (nine-for-25 shooting).

Meanwhile, Cousins (19 points and 11 rebounds) and Patterson (23 points and eight rebounds) were models of efficiency. John Wall chipped in 12 points.

It was Cousins' 17th double-double of the season.

Kentucky improved to 27-1 overall and 12-1 in the SEC. The Cats can clinch at least a tie for the program's 44th SEC regular-season championship by winning at Tennessee on Saturday.

South Carolina, which lost for the fifth time in its last six games, fell to 14-13 overall and 5-8 in the league.

"The key was transition defense and rebounding," Downey said. "We did neither."

That South Carolina outrebounded Kentucky in Columbia shocked many observers. After the rematch, Coach Darrin Horn conceded that the Gamecocks were at a disadvantage inside.

"Anybody we play is going to be better than us (around the basket)," Horn said. "That's no news flash."

Kentucky scored the game's first seven points, widened its first-half cushion to as much as 14 points and settled for a 37-26 lead at intermission.

UK achieved its goal of controlling the boards. The Cats limited South Carolina to only one offensive rebound in the first half that saw UK enjoy a 24-13 rebounding advantage.

Kentucky also played its typical stout defense while not fouling. The Cats committed only four fouls and South Carolina did not shoot a free throw until 17:11 remained in the game.

So Kentucky might have expected to enjoy an even bigger halftime lead.But Downey, who missed six of his first nine shots and seemed out of sync (three first-half turnovers, five for the game), managed to get South Carolina within 37-26 at the break. After UK put up an air ball on its last shot, Downey swished a long three-point heave at the buzzer to set the halftime score.

Downey left the floor pumping his right fist.

UK resumed its inside advantage to start the second half. Second-chance scores by Patterson (a pretty up-and-under move) and Cousins (powering to a three-point play) extended the lead to 42-26 with 18:17 left.

The lead stood at 46-35 at the first television timeout. During the break, Earvin "Magic" Johnson, a guest of Kentucky Gov. Steven Beshear, did the "Y" and threw in the John Wall dance.

It wasn't party time yet.

After Downey hit a three-pointer and Lakeem Jackson's putback reduced the lead to 46-40, Kentucky called time with 12:53 left.

The Cats went to Cousins, who powered in a basket from the low post.

When asked if UK going to Cousins in the post came as a surprise, Horn said with an incredulous voice, "No. No. Did you think they were going somewhere else?"

More breathing room came when a blind save by Cousins went to Patterson at the basket. Patterson's dunk — at least the third basket he got by being in the right place at the right time, put the lead at 50-42.

"He said he saw me," Patterson said of Cousins' pass. "But he wasn't even looking at me."

A driving basket by Eric Bledsoe got the lead back to double digits with 9:20 left. South Carolina never got closer than 10 thereafter.

Chism to play

Looking ahead to Saturday's game at Tennessee, UT big man Wayne Chism took a fall at Florida and limped the rest of the game.

But Tennessee Coach Bruce Pearl said Thursday that Chism would play against Kentucky even though he did not participate fully in that day's practice.

"The reason why he wouldn't practice is because he wants to rest up to play," Pearl told the UT press corps. "But in order to play effectively, he needs to practice."

Pearl likened Chism to Willis Reed, whose limp onto the court and two baskets in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA finals became an iconic moment in New York Knicks history.

"There's a little Willis Reed in Wayne, there is," Pearl said. "That's OK, as long as it has that kind of ending. He's certainly been through a great deal."

Need new surprise

For the first time this season, Tennessee played a lot of zone when the Vols played at Kentucky on Feb. 13. After struggling in the first half, UK better handled the zone with its offense in front of the team bench in the second half.

"The big challenge against Kentucky is we showed our cards (in Lexington)," Pearl said. "We did a lot of things differently. We did a lot of things that bothered Kentucky. It's stuff that had been in the package, but stuff we hadn't used much. But we're also going to have to do some other things to keep them off balance."

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